Music Notes November 2011

November 30, 2011 at 3:20 am (Uncategorized)

It’s the end of the month as we know it and I feel fine…

1. Chris Isaak – Beyond the Sun

I’m a little alarmed that of Chris Isaak’s last five releases, there’s only been one of new songs: the others are a Christmas album, a greatest hits package, a live recording and now this one, Beyond the Sun.  That said, this is a pretty fine record. If you spring for the deluxe edition you get 25 covers of classic Sun recordings by Elvis, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and many more. The ballads work better that the rockers, which could do with a little more oomph, but if you’re a fan of Isaak, it’s a great addition.  

2. The Pepperpots – Train to your Lover

And here’s a very pleasant surprise. The Pepperpots, though they may sound like Motown circa mid-60s are in fact a ten-piece band from Spain. Fantastic sound. I’m not sure if they are revivalists (this is their fourth record) or this is an homage, but it’s simply amazing. Become a convert. 

3. Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo – Almanac

The first I heard of Emily Barker was as the voice behind the theme music to the Wallander TV series. Fragile, haunting folk which fit the show perfectly. This album is more of that. Timeless sounds.

4. Lykke Li – “Unchained Melody”

A song she performed in concert at her Toronto show. Not sure if this is being released anytime soon, but I got it as a download from Pitchfork or maybe Soundgum. Look around, it’s all over the net. The cover is spare. But lovely.

5. Sex Pistols – Filthy Lucre

Not sure why I picked this up. When the Pistols reformed, I swore I would never go to see them. It seemed a cash grad. This record, now 15 years old, equally so, but I guess I was curious. Compared to the Winterland final show, the sound is better and the playing toop. But the fire is missing. The spark isn’t there, and while Lydon’s vocals are fine, they ultimately aren’t convincing. What does make this interesting is the set list: “Did you No Wrong,” ” Seventeen,” “No Fun” and even “Stepping Stone.” No simply Bollocks live. Worth a listen, but by no means essential.

6. Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material

And now we go all the way back. This was probably my favourite album of 1979. Tremendous.  I sang along, time after time. Now, thirty years later, I realise it hasn’t aged so well. “Rough Trade” sounds weak. “Closed Groove” rather embarrassing. In many places the lyrics seem trite. But that said, it’s still a fine album. “Suspect Device” and “State of Emergency” still have an amazing claustrophobia about them. I still love the middle section of Barbed Wire love, and “Johnny Was” still inspires me to stop what I’m doing. Top marks too for the bravery to record “White Noise.” Irony is always a risky proposition, but taking the language of racism and throwing it back is a brave thing. The CD re-issues are thin though, so how about a deluxe edition with remastered sounds and demos. C’mon, I’ll buy it!

7. The Specials – The Specials

And speaking of discs crying out for the deluxe treatment, how about the Specials debut? It holds up well and livens up any Saturday night. Rude Boys, Rude Boys!

8. Babyshambles – Down in Albion

Like his friend Peter Perrett, Pete Doherty has serious drug problems which tend to overshadow his serious talent. It would be a tragedy if Doherty followed the path of so many and ended up dead in a hotel room somewhere. Down in Albion isn’t great by the libertines standard, but it’s a passable record. And on songs like “Fuck Forever” and “Pipedown” Doherty does make pop gold. Avoid the plodding reggae cuts though.

9. Big Star – Nobody Can Dance

A collection of demos and odds and ends of Big Star material. If you’re a fan, it’s an essential addition; if you’re not, it’s not the best place to start, but make sure you go there eventually. A Norton release.

10.  The Long Ryders – Native Sons

Ten years earlier or later and the Long Ryders would have been huge. as it was they were lumped in with the neo-psychodelic Paisley underground and never really achieved the status they should have. Country rock with an emphasis on the latter. The spirit of Gram.

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The Next Step for Occupy Wall Street: Occupy Buildings, Occupy Workplaces

November 26, 2011 at 6:34 pm (Uncategorized)

A Leaflet by Insurgent Notes

Today, after two months of occupations and the attacks on the occupations in Portland, Oakland and now Manhattan, OWS might be crossing a new threshold–a massive convergence of students in Union Square and a working-class convergence in Foley Square attempting to give reality to the growing calls for a general strike. That new threshold should include the extension of the occupations to buildings for the coming winter and, beyond that, to workplaces, where the working class can make the system stop, as a further step toward taking over the administration of society on an entirely new basis. Whatever happens today (November 17th) and in the coming week of action, it is time to assess the strengths and limits of the occupation movement both in New York and around the U.S.

There is no question that this is the most important movement to hit the streets in the US in four decades. Its wildfire spread to 1,000 cities in a few weeks attests to that. The avalanche of “demands” has suddenly made the social and economic misery of 40 years, largely suffered passively, with occasional outbursts of resistance, a public reality impossible to ignore from now on. Politicians, TV personalities and various experts have been caught flat-footed before a movement that refuses to enter their suddenly irrelevant universe. For all the “grab-bag” quality of what it has said, the movement has been absolutely right to refuse to identify too closely with specific demands, ideologies and leaders. Daily social reality over years has educated it all too well for it to fall into that game. Underneath everything is the reality of what the movement represents: the refusal of a society that places ever-greater numbers of people on the scrapheap. To identify itself too closely with any laundry list of demands would be to fall beneath the movement’s deeply felt sense that everything must change and the certainty that nothing should be as before.

In response, the largest forces with a potential to derail this movement into respectable channels (the Democratic Party and the union officials) are scrambling to control, defuse and repress it, as they did successfully, for example, in Wisconsin in the spring. They are not having an easy time of it.

The realities of occupations in 1,000 cities defy easy generalization. The news media has attempted to portray the core of the movement as young, white, unemployed and “middle class”–the latter tag being a fast-disappearing mistaken identity for the working class. Whatever the case in the early stages, in different cities (most notably in the November 2nd mass march on the Port of Oakland), significant numbers of blacks and Latinos, as well as older people, have expanded the movement in many places beyond the initial core.

Our purpose here is not to dwell on the thousand slogans, something that is to be expected from a very young movement made up to a great extent by people for whom this is the first such experience of their lives. Ideas such as the “1%” or “make the rich pay their fair share” or “make the banks pay” or “abolish the Fed” sit side by side with attacks on “capitalism”. We would suggest that the excessive focus on the “banks” does not recognize that the source of widespread misery is the world crisis of the capitalist (wage labor) system and, as a result, it does not point to the overcoming of the crisis by establishing a world beyond wage labor, namely socialism or communism (although we are well aware of the abuse of those words in far too many cases). To arrive at such a focus requires speaking openly of class. It is clear that the large majority of working-class people in the U.S., while sympathetic to the movement, have not joined it in any active way, if only because they are working and caught up in daily survival.

The occupation movement needs to build on the creative militancy in the streets of thousands of people (as shown in Oakland, Portland, Seattle, New York and elsewhere) to reach out to that large majority which sometimes seems, a block or two from the street battles, to be going about business as usual. The growing number of anti-eviction and anti-foreclosure actions has made that outreach. Taking over buildings for meetings and much-needed living space, as well as for workshops and teach-ins, could be an important next step. Beyond that should be the extension of the movement to work stoppages and occupation of workplaces, posing even more sharply than before the questions of private property and of “who rules”?

The pending contract renewal of Local 100 of the Transit Workers Union is one obvious link here in New York. The ongoing standoff between west coast dock workers (ILWU) Local 21 and the scab-herding EGT Corporation in Longview, Washington, is another. The planned occupation, together with parents and students, of five public schools slated for closure in Oakland, is still another. In such efforts, we believe that the movement will have little difficulty distinguishing between the rank-and-file workers (who have already joined it on occasions) and the trade-union bureaucrats who have passed one toothless resolution after another of “support” without the slightest, or only token, mobilization.

Still less needs to be said about the Democratic Party politicians–most notoriously, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan–who have tried to ride the movement for their own ends–before sending in the riot police.

However, occupation is only a further step: beyond it is the question of taking over the production of society for ourselves and running it on an entirely new basis.

Whatever happens in the immediate future, a wall of silence on the accumulated misery of four decades has been breached. Every day brings further news of attacks on working people as world capitalism spins out of control. Never has it been clearer that capitalist “normalcy” depends on the passivity of those it crushes to save itself, and from Tunisia and Egypt, via Greece and Spain, to New York, Oakland, Seattle and Portland, that passivity is over. The task today is to throw everything we have into approaching that point of no return where conditions cry out: “We have the chance to change the world, let’s take it.”

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Lykke Li In Toronto – A Review

November 20, 2011 at 5:08 pm (Uncategorized)

Damn, now I want to buy a Volvo.

OK, so Sweden has produced quite a number of significant cultural artifacts: Abba, Bjorn Borg, IKEA, etc. etc. And so, Lykke Li came back to town for her second Toronto show this year, this time at the much larger Sound Academy instead of the Phoenix. 

It took me a while to admit to myself I liked Lykke Li. Youth Novels passed me by, and probably the first I saw of her was the eye-catching video for “Get some.” Eventually, I picked up the record, and was hooked. It’s a blend of alt-pop mixed with that classic Phil Spector sound. How could you not love it?  

Opening act First Aid Kit were already on stage when I got there. The band consists of a pair of Swedish sisters who performed a folky set of sincere but catchy tunes. Their initial claim to fame was a Fleet Foxes cover on You Tube, but they are more substantial than that.  For me, the only distraction was that one of the sisters looked as if she had worn her Hogwarts dress robes to the show, but I digress.   

First Aid Kit

Accompanied by dry ice and strobe lights Lykke Li took the stage at a little after 9:30 with ” Jerome,”  and in the hour-long set ran through the high points of her second album Wounded Rhymes, and there were plenty of them: “I Follow Rivers,” “Rich Kid Blues,” “Get Some” and blasting “Youth Knows no Pain” through a megaphone all did the trick.

Lykke Li

Continuing the Hogwarts theme, Lykke appeared to have borrowed Professor Snape’s costume for the early part of the set, and the thrashing of a drumstick seemed as if she was trying to cast a spell over us  through her own wall of sound. And in a nod to Phil Spector’s influence, Lykke also performed the Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody.” (produced by Spector) (Stream and download it at Stereogum).

And then, almost without warning it was done.

Lykke Li

Despite the measly one song encore, “Unrequited Love, ” the show left the audience delighted. Of course, the fact that someone broke into my car by smashing my back window during the show was a bit of a downer to an otherwise memorable evening. (I suppose one could argue, that after that I’ll never forget the evening, but…)

That Volvo, perhaps with an alarm, looks better and better.

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New Radical Publications November 2011

November 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s that time of the year again.

The new issue of Aufheben is out. The twentieth issue of the journal contains three articles: Communities, Commodities and Class in the August 2011 Riots, Driving the NHS to Market, and Going Underground.

 Also out is the fifth issue of Radical Anthropology, the journal of the Radical Anthropology Group. The new issue contains articles on bonobos “girl power, ” Falstaff, ritual activity in ancient Africa nad much more. The issue can be downloaded as a PDF here

I will eventually have hard copies of both of these magazine, so get in touch if you live in the Toronto area (or are willing to pay exorbitant postage rates)

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Toronto

November 14, 2011 at 1:15 am (Uncategorized)

Hmm, somewhat off-topic from the stuff I usually post/re-post here. I’ve lived in Toronto, on and off since 1987. I met my wife here; my children were born here. I like its relative bustle. I love its multiculturalism. Sure there are things which bother me, but isn’t that true of everywhere? So, it puzzles me that so many people in other parts of this country, hate this city so much. I friend of mine with whom I shared many opinions could hardly say Toronto without spitting. Other friends had similar antipathies.

Certainly the Federal and Provincial Conservatives can barely contain their dislike of the city. It was rumoured that former Premier Mike Harris was in favour of a certain proposal, but changed his mind when he realized it would benefit Toronto. now that story is almost certainly apocryphal, but the fact it still circulates is telling.

Is Toronto cold or stuck up? It’s all very odd. This piece by Marcus Gee appeared in Saturday’s Globe and Mail

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As a Toronto boy going to university in Vancouver, I learned early how much my hometown is loathed by some Canadians. Saying you were from Toronto was liking sounding a leper’s bell. I came to mention it almost apologetically.

More than three decades later, a new opinion poll finds that Toronto is still the country’s least liked city. The poll was conducted by Léger Marketing for the National Capital Commission and the Association of Canadian Studies. It surveyed 2,345 Canadians on their perceptions of different Canadian cities.

Nineteen per cent of respondents had a negative perception of Toronto, a higher number than for any other city. Toronto-phobia is highest in the West. Twenty-three per cent of respondents in British Columbia, 27 per cent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 30 per cent in Alberta were negative on the city.

Isn’t it time for Canadians to get over this sour prejudice? The smug, high-handed, WASPy Toronto that people learned to hate has vanished into history. Toronto may be Canada’s biggest city, but it no longer lords it over anyone. Calgary has more economic vigour. House prices in Vancouver are higher. Montreal is cooler. Even St. John’s has oil.

Western resentment of the East and its arrogant urban bastion seems a little absurd now that the economic centre of gravity has shifted westwards. While Albertans merrily pump money from the ground, Ontario frets about its eroding manufacturing base. The West is not only in, it’s running the show. The prime minister is from Calgary (even if, like many Westerners, he is a transplanted Torontonian.)

So why the resentment? If it isn’t Toronto’s overweening power that makes people hate the city, what does? Is it because Torontonians pretend their city is the centre of the universe?

That doesn’t wash. Most Torontonians think New York is the centre of the universe. They may be proud of their city, but they are hardly boastful. Come to Toronto, in fact, and you will find people complaining about the place – the impossible traffic, the frustrating transit service, the loony antics at city hall, the lack of civic ambition. They are well aware that Toronto is not paradise on earth, thanks. If you want smug and self-satisfied, go to Vancouver.

Is it because Toronto is so unfriendly? Certainly, you get more smiles and hellos in Ottawa or Halifax. But that may be more a matter of size than of civic personality. In smaller cities, people are more open with strangers than they are in the metropolis. One on one, people from Toronto can be as decent as anyone else. When a local magazine published a story saying that Torontonians are fleeing the grim-faced city for friendlier small towns, online forums exploded with Toronto stories about acts of kindness and neighbours helping neighbours.

Is Toronto resented simply because it is big? Maybe, but New York is big, too. Americans consider their biggest city a national treasure and flock there to enjoy its glories, coming home with I ♥ NY T-shirts. Canadians prefer to sneer.

Is it because Toronto is so dangerous? That myth is widespread. A young university student from British Columbia told me that when she moved to Toronto, her family and friends warned her never to look anyone in the eye; she might get stabbed or raped. In fact, according to Statistics Canada’s crime-severity index for 2010, Toronto was safer than Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Victoria, Vancouver, Thunder Bay, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, Hamilton, Sudbury – in fact, safer than any city, except Quebec City and Guelph.

What many Canadians feel for Toronto is like what some adolescent boys feel for a big brother. “He thinks he’s so big.” Most boys grow out of it. Canadians should, too.

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The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

November 11, 2011 at 7:59 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s Remembrance Day in Canada (Veterans’ Day in the US). I went to the Remembrance Day assemblies at both my kids schools, and left in grim dismay.

My son attends elementary school (Grade 1-5), and overall the theme was peace. The kids made pictures of what peace meant to them. They performed a few peace skis, and asnag “Last night I had the Strangest Dream” and “Bridgeo ver Troubled Water.” A recording of John Lennon’s “Imagine” played over a part of the ceremong. They ended with a candlelight parade over “Amazing Grace (a tune I’ll admit a certain weakness for). Yes, yes, they read John McRae’s dreadful ode to war “In Flanders Fields” – OK the first part is OK, but “Take up the quarrel with the foe…”  Come on.

The thing that’s missing amidst all the we shall not forget, is what they were remembering. Now, it’s true that little children scare easily and its important to us age-approarpiate examples, but it all seemed a bit mysterious.

The middle school version was a bit more disturbing. It still included McRae’s poem, and the Last Post, but in addition to the peace poems and skits, there was a short video clip over a song called “Soldiers Cry”  by Edmonton singer/songwriter Roland Majeau.

Ponder these lyrics for a moment.

And the soldier cries Oh Canada
If it must be so, Ill die for thee
And the soldier cries Oh Canada
Ill die to keep you free

Uh, huh. In reality, soliders die not for “their” country, but to preserve the empires of the existing social order.

And then there’s this part:

Far away we had seen a great danger
And yet theres a danger much greater within
The noise we make as we constantly bicker
Would hush not a whisper if we listen to him

Quebec? Democracy? Well well.

What is promoted as a commemoration of the sacrifice made by soliders is actually a celebration of their sacrifice.

As usual, I’ll turn to the war poetry of Wilfred Owen.  Here is his beautiful poem, The Parable of the Old Man and the Young.

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns, A Ram.
Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

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THREE CITIES, THREE OCCUPATIONS: ALL IN LESS THAN ONE WEEK

November 7, 2011 at 3:55 am (Uncategorized)

A report by a member of IP on occupations in New York, Seattle and Vancouver

Before I went to New York, I had only had a few hours’ experience at Occupy Vancouver. Some of it had been less than inspiring, including, on my last time there, having one person standing next to me (who I had never seen before) in a highly emotional state turn to me and very intensely tell me how there had just been a split amongst the core group of people involved in the organizing of the occupation, with the “liberals” (alternatively, the “hippie liberals”) having taken over, that it was a bunch of b.s. and that this was a terrible development. That was a little unsettling. I was, however, impressed with how the General Assemblies I attended were ‘facilitated’ so as to permit everyone present to participate, if they accepted and followed the agreed upon procedure, and to try to achieve maximum unity (the 90% consensus model). I was also impressed by the level of passion and openness expressed by the persons who vented themselves to me. This thing was obviously very important to a number of these people.

 Zuccotti Park in NYC was a different story. Even though the content of the first GA there I attended was uninteresting and not at all political, the ‘process’ was very impressive. The participants seemed more comfortable with and more proficient at the process. (Of course, they had been at it for almost a month longer than the ones in Vancouver.) And then their collective self-confidence – New Yorkers, you know – that was truly inspiring to experience. It seemed clear that this process was working well for them and they were proud of it. It really is something new, a new way of working together, in the most horizontal, the most “directly democratic” (beyond that, even, I would say) way yet realized by human beings. And the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park is where it began. A sense that history was in the making here was felt but not easy to articulate at the time.

 That sense became much clearer the next day. With the weather significantly warmer, there was a more relaxed, comfortable vibe to the place. (it was also afternoon, rather than evening.) This was several hours before the day’s GA. The person I was there with, a comrade, had been there a few times previously, and clearly felt very comfortable and confident about getting involved in any open discussion of interest to him. Various different conversations/discussions were going on in different parts of the park. In each case, we could listen in, ask what it was about, be informed about who it concerned/who was involved, and follow along if we wanted. It wasn’t long before we came across what I later learned is called the “Think Tank”. It is a place in the park, close to the middle, where open discussions on any topics can occur. One announces one’s topic, then sees who else wants to participate. It seems that the topics usually arise out of spontaneous discussions involving, initially, two or three people, which others then want to join into. My comrade and I participated in two of these discussions, one, which we stumbled upon, on capitalism vs. socialism, and another on how to find new ways to try to open people’s imaginations in a way that allows them to think outside of the restricted sphere of existence that the existing mass media, governments, educational systems, etc. enforce/impose on us. Each discussion involved about 8-10 people, with about 10-15 others just listening in. It was very informal – with just a “stacker” taking a list of people wanting to speak – but it seemed to work so well because people really wanted to make it work, rather than just get into another shouting match.

 Here was real, serious discussion and debate, back and forth, with people really concerned to sharpen their views, to learn from each, in the most respectful way, among the widest variety of people (age, dress, style, race, sexual orientation, etc.) I think I had ever experienced. And although I was, unlike my comrade, slow to get involved, I did become actively involved and felt none of the unease and anxiety I would normally expect to feel in such a situation. Clearly, there was something big happening here, something that I had dreamt about being a part of for decades, something that has probably not existed in America since the late 1960s (when I was a child, but able to vaguely sense a feeling of ‘change in the air’). It was, and still is, exhilarating, to be sure.

 My comrade suggested that I attend at least one session of one Working Group, since that was where a lot of good discussions occurred, and also where proposals put forward in the GA’s were initially worked out.  I did attend one working group, on “visions and goals”, but only briefly, since the content at that time was not of interest, but again, the process used and its facilitation were impressive to witness. It was Halloween that day, and when I returned to Zuccotti Park from where the working group was meeting, it seemed that there was not an ‘official’ GA that evening; but there was a group of about 50-60 people near where the GA’s were being held holding an impromptu assembly, complete with various people dressed in very impressive Halloween costumes, including an impeccably dressed Emma Goldman. It was as much fun and convivial as it was serious and militant, but when we decided to hold a half hour break and then resume again, a few people announced different proposals for what to do during the half hour, including one to do a chain dance around the Merrill Lynch bull near the Bowling Green, another to go to the graveyard at nearby Trinity Church, across Broadway from Wall Street, to ask the spirits of the dead buried there for advice on what to do, to one to “go over there and discuss revolutionary politics.” Needless to say, I opted for the latter. It turned out this guy was still in high school and identified as an anarchist, and judged council communism to be a political tendency proximate to his. Another person self-identified as an anarcho-syndicalist. I didn’t label myself, but I did argue for the necessity of a Marxist critique and analysis of the economy and its crisis, after another person said it was essential for us to follow what’s happening in the economy, and to see how things are going to get a lot worse pretty soon – to which I wholeheartedly agreed. The discussion, involving at various times between six and twelve highly varied people, focused mostly on strategy towards the occupation movement from a revolutionary perspective. There seemed to be agreement reached that it was still too early to be focusing on ‘direct actions’ and trying to achieve any specific ‘gains’ or ‘victories’; that the principle aim should be, currently, to try grow the movement to involve as many people as possible from the ‘99%’, and to focus on discussion and mutual ‘education’, to get as many people as possible to recognize that our big goal should be the abolition of capitalism, and that we need to better understand how it dominates all our lives. That was one very satisfying discussion, one I won’t soon forget. That was pretty much it for that day at Occupy Wall Street, as it seemed all but a small number had left for Halloween events, including a massive Halloween march up Sixth Avenue.

 The next day was a flight back to Seattle. The day after that I went to check out the Occupy Seattle encampment, which had recently been moved from Westlake Park, adjacent to the financial district in downtown Seattle, to Seattle Central Community College, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, actually not very far away. It was about 1:30 p.m. when I got there, and it turned out that the little under a hundred people assembled there were holding a sort of rally to pep themselves up for what was coming. I had met one of the people who spoke at the rally, actually the best one in my estimation, at a recent IP public meeting. He’s a member of Seattle’s Black Orchid Collective and a very good public speaker. In fact, he was able to not only link the coming event to global capitalism, he also invoked the ever-increasing numbers of permanently unemployed that capitalism produces and contains in its ‘planet of slums’ – which was something that he had picked up directly from the recent IP p.m. mentioned.

 It turned out the coming event was a march up Seattle’s Broadway to a local branch of  Chase Bank, owned by JP Morgan/Chase Bank, apparently one of the largest financial corporation in the world. I happily went along, up the street, with police escort. We chanted various slogans and chants along the way. Some were quite fun, including “Hey, hey, ho, ho, capitalism’s got to go!” and “Workers of the world unite, come and join the general strike!” (which was a reference specifically to the Occupy Oakland called strike, occurring that day). When we got to the bank branch we heard a few facts about JP Morgan/Chase Bank and its CEO, who was apparently in Seattle for a conference. It further turned out that about a half dozen people were already in the bank branch, ‘occupying’ it. We marched around the building a couple of times, chanting some more, and with a few people saying ‘their piece’ about banks. Several police with bicycles guarded the entrances to the building. It seemed that nothing much more was going to happen, for a while at least, but people remained, following what was going on inside. At that point I had to leave, to catch a bus to Vancouver. I will say, though, that I was impressed by the militancy and the generally anti-capitalist tenor of the activity I saw and participated in that day in Seattle. The racial mix of the participants was also greater than what I saw in New York (even though it was impressive there too), and definitely more so than what I’ve seen in Vancouver.  

  I came back to Vancouver highly inspired by what I had experienced in New York and Seattle. I was convinced that there was ‘something in the air’ in America, that now is a time of soon-coming social change, and that many people’s consciousness was already changing, changing rapidly and massively, in the context of this very concentrated #OWS movement, and that we were likely still in the very early stages of it. Having had those American experiences, I was more comfortable and confident in participating in the occupation in my Canadian city, even if I find it difficult to shake my cynicism about the political attitudes and activities of my fellow citizens, especially those on the ‘left’. It could well be that the “liberals” have “taken over” control of Occupy Van., but it is still Occupy Van., part of the global #OWS (or “occupy together”) movement, and it is still open to everyone. I have participated, and tried to defend an anti-capitalist perspective, both in the GA’s and in informal discussions, and I have found other participants to be open to what I say and very respectful. I plan to stay involved and engaged, to defend and discuss an anti-capitalist perspective, specifically, an internationalist communist one, and to learn what I can from the others I engage with. I am also trying to get Occupy Van. to set up a ‘think tank’ like the one in Zuccotti Park.

 E.R.

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Strange Fruit

November 2, 2011 at 2:05 am (Uncategorized)

After the music post yesterday, and my mention of Siouxsie’s version of this song, I decided to post the poem. written in 1936 by a New york schoolteacher Adel Meeropol after he viewed a photography of a lynching, the words have lost none of their power 75 years later.

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

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Music Notes October 2011

November 1, 2011 at 2:32 am (Uncategorized)

Hey, it’s still October where I am, so here’s fine things for your ears

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy

All their albums have been reissued with extra tracks and videos. But this is the one you really need. A masterpiece, this one.

Adele – 21

OK, true confessions. My wife got to this one before me. It’s a great record – a sort of cleaned up Amy Winehouse (which is unfair to both). seriously though, she has an amazing voice (let’s hope it survives the surgery) and some great songs. (and a great Cure cover)

3. Steve Ignorant – The Rest is Propaganda

I was a very bit Crass fan as a lad. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see Steve play on the Last Supper tour this spring. Got my picture taken and got a copy of the book signed. Didn’t read it for several months though. Big mistake. It was a great read. It’s not about Crass, but of course lots of Crass in it. It’s Steve’s autobiography, but working class origins through a chance Clash gig to today. Thoroughly entertaining.

4. Mark E Smith – Renegade

Must be book month then. Yeah, I was a bit of a Fall fan too, although my real familiarity with them ends about Hex Indunction Hour. Smith’s autobiography is a bit like the man himself. Maddening, contrary, fascinating, compulsive, witty, intellectual, opinionated, essential. More of a stream of consciousness than a narrative, it’s best enjoyed in an armchair with a cup of tea (IMHO)

5. The Geraldine Fibbers – What Part of Get Thee Gone Don’t You Understand?

Here’s a band I haven’t thought of in a while. The Geraldine Fibbers were a mid-90s alt-country band from LA (I think). This record is a collection of singles, rarities and some live stuff. Covers of Dolly Parton, Bobby Gentry, Beck and George Jones. Sloppy drunk country. Perfect for the long drive back from nowhere.

6.  Sioxsie and the Banshees – “Strange Fruit”

I was reading the lyrics to the song the other day, when I remembered that Siouxsie had covered this. I dug out the CD and gave it a spin. It’s not the best version of the song by any means, but it’s a bold choice. Siouxsie never had a classically great voice, but she had an impact. It’s worth a listen.  

7. Sigor Rus – ()

Hmm, Icelandic band records 8-song album called () with no song titles. I’ve commented before that I don’t understand why I like this band, but I do. Moody, eerie, atmospheric.

8. The Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be

Their first record. Sugary pop-punk. Will cheer you up, no doubt.

9. The Harder They Come

And should you still need cheering, this soundtrack will do it: Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Decker and many more. A great movie, a greater soundtrack. If you live in a cold country, this will make winter more tolerable.  

10.  REM

Well, I don’t really like REM after Document, so a large part of their career is outside of my interest. Still, thinking back to when I first heard “Radio Free Europe” and the college rock sound they so influenced (along with the great Mitch Easter)., it’s hard to deny them their place. Sometimes you get to be in the right place at the right time.  Cheers.

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